First a confession: I love the Indiana Jones movies. I grew up on the franchise and as a kid owned a brown fedora and bullwhip. Now you know. Today, having seen the first three films on DVD, my sons have their own brown fedoras and a bullwhip. So when they heard that a new Indiana Jones film was being released, the boys begged to see it. I was only too happy to comply with their request.
Another dad and myself signed our kids out of school early and took them down to the local Regal Cinema to be there on the opening day of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” (Yes, we contributed to the $127 million dollar haul.) This was no routine trip to the Cineplex. This was a pilgrimage; a chance for the old guys to share their boyish excitement with the young-uns-- to show them what old fashioned summer movies were like. The boys wore their fedoras and we settled in the dark waiting for the excitement to begin.
It never did.
In fairness, the boys were mildly interested in a jungle jeep chase sequence. A swarm of killer ants that devoured a mean Commie also made them put aside the Skittles for a nanosecond. But aside from that, my sons were literally tipping over from boredom.
Indiana Jones is one of those iconic American characters that we need today. Cut from the cloth of John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart, Dr. Jones is an unapologetic male: a good guy who is sure of himself and his culture. He is both brash and educated—a solver of riddles who can pop bad guys in the mouth, outsmart the fascists, and still get the girl. But something was missing from this adventure. When it was over, it felt as if we hadn’t seen an Indiana Jones picture at all. National Treasure 2 was a better film.
Oh, Harrison Ford was there doing a fine job as an elder, more resigned Indy, but the old magic around him was absent. The first problem was the time period. 1957 is a far cry from the glamour and mystique of the 1930’s. And having an Indiana Jones movie begin in NEVADA with strains of Elvis’ “Hound Dog” in the background is probably not a good idea. And who’s choice was it to have Alvin and the Prairie Dogs show up in the opening scene?
In retrospect it was as if George Lucas (the producer who is credited with the absurd story) and director Stephen Spielberg were more interested in paying tribute to their hits of yesteryear than reviving one of America’s great movie franchises. Imagine random scenes from American Graffiti (which Lucas directed in 1973), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg’s 1977 film), and Jaws (Spielberg,1975) with Indiana Jones wandering about and you pretty much have a sense of this film. Despite the promise of a few scenes between Harrison Ford and Karen Allen (as Indy’s old love Marion Ravenwood), there is little humanity here for audiences to hold on to.
Yeah, Indiana Jones is still snapping his whip and throwing out cocky asides. He tips his hat to nuns and is obviously the Indy we know from better days; but lost in this ridiculous storyline, even die-hards will have trouble caring about him. Once the space ship takes off from the Aztec temple, it is all but impossible to watch. The character is so out of place in this milieu, Spielberg and Lucas may as well have ended the film with Indy, Marion, and their love child walking into Al’s Diner for a burger. Fonzie, Richie Cunningham, Laverne and Shirley could have been sharing milkshakes in a nearby booth just to complete the excitement. Heck, wait another 20 years and in the next installment, Indy and Marion can go on a senior’s Princess Cruise with Captain Stubing and special guest star, Carol Channing.
Whatever Indy was searching for (and after sitting through this graphic laden nightmare I still am not at all certain what that was) I don’t think he found it. Neither did we.
As I write this my sons are wearing their fedoras in the backyard, spinning adventures far more exciting than the muddled Indiana Jones disaster abusing screens everywhere. Save your money and watch the kids in the yard. They’re more believable, and unlike these filmmakers, they love Indiana Jones for more than the box office riches he can deliver.
Raymond Arroyo is the New York Times Bestelling Author of “Mother Angelica” and host of the EWTN Newsmagazine “The World Over Live.” www.raymondarroyo.com